Steve likes to Google “best breakfast in ‘insert name of city here’” and he came up with the City Diner in St. Louis. We parked across the street in a little park and were greeted by a huge “Earth Rabbit” in a yoga pose. It set the festive tone for the morning and once I saw Deep Fried French Toast on the menu at the diner, it was no holds barred! It came piping hot, not greasy at all and was perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Absolutely delish!
|Pods to the top of the Arch|
We caught our first glimpse of the St. Louis Arch from quite a distance. The closer we got the more graceful and delicate looking it got. The bottom of the arch is surrounded by a beautiful park alongside the Mississippi. The elevator pods took us 630 feet to the observation deck at the top (four minutes up and three minutes down) and boy are they tiny! Little windows in the pods allow you to see the emergency exit stairs and help to not feel quite so claustrophobic. The observation deck is long and narrow with small windows (due to the pressure of the arch). Our lovely and clear day allowed us to see for miles around (they say you can see 30 miles out). Looking straight down we got a bird’s eye view of the Mississippi flooding as well – sidewalks still covered over and the banks flooding out the docks for the riverboat cruises. It seems a bit ironic that the cruises were suspended due to the flooding of the river.
Our good friend Steve Stouter travelled Route 66 by motor home with his family just about a month before our trip and highly recommended the Anheuser-Busch tour. Not being a beer fan, I was a bit skeptical, but am so glad we went. The (free) tour travels about eight city blocks as you work through the process of brewing, history of Anheuser Busch and the actual plant facilities. We went through the working parts of the factory, the stables for the Clydesdales and the very opulent holding tank areas. We finished in the “tasting room” where I discovered that although I am not a beer fan, I do enjoy their newest concoction, the Straw-Ber-Rita, a strawberry margarita with a Budweiser base. And…truth be told, I didn’t mind sharing the mixed six pack of Shock-Top we bought over the course of the next week or so. Amy and beer - who knew?
The day was hot and Steve surprised me with a little backtrack to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, open on Route 66 since 1941, for an afternoon ice cream treat. Steve cooled off with a refreshing lemon crumble (along the lines of a blizzard, made with lemon and graham cracker crumbs) and I enjoyed the purity of what they’re famous for, homemade vanilla custard. Our taste buds were mighty happy and satisfied!
The whirlwind day ended with making it in time for the last tour for Meramec Caverns. The entranceway was a bit on the cheesy side with a “Jessie James Hide Out” story and theme, but the caverns themselves were fascinating. There were only seven of us on the tour and our tour ranger had a wanna-be cop attitude going on and was entertaining all in himself with his swinging flashlight and holster and catch phrases of “Stop right there” and “Stay behind me”. The mineral formations are breathtaking and don’t really need to be enhanced by the cheesy light and music show at the end of the tour. However, our young cop-guide really seemed to enjoy working the switches for the lights as he presented us with his “personally choreographed” show.
We stayed that night at the Meramec Caverns Hotel which was not only pleasant, but a welcoming sight at just at the other end of the parking lot.
On the hunt for breakfast at a local diner in Bourke, IL, we stumbled across the Circle N. True diner style, complete with a few older gentlemen locals at tables across from the counter and two older women who were in the dining area with us that chain smoked all the way through breakfast! The average eggs and pancakes tasted all the better when the server placed mine in front of me and announced “and this is for The Mrs.”. Made Steven and I smile ear to ear!
We headed out and our first destination was Cuba, MO., artfully decorated with 12 murals depicting a mix of local history, the Civil War, and the golden age of travel along Route 66. The murals are skillfully worked into the natural flow of the town’s buildings and had incredible detail.
A short way down the road we came to the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. I was disappointed to find you couldn’t climb up onto it for a picture anymore, but Steve got one of me underneath it before we strolled through the Route 66 Outpost on the site.
The store had tastings of the local alcohol offerings. For those who’ve heard us talk about the Morgano wine Steve’s dad used to make (and I was introduced to cocktail hour at the tender age of 18 years of age with), I can share that the wine tasted strongly of that! We picked up a bottle of that to enjoy with a dinner a little further into the trip, but passed on the moonshine that Steve had a very generous shot of!
The route maps we’d bought suggested we make sure to go into Arlington, MO., what it quaintly referred to as “a scenic side trip”. So, we took the very bumpy ride down a long dirt dead end road to find a community of four houses with four mailboxes. Although considered a ghost town now, it was once a bustling town that boasted one of the busiest destination resorts in MO, the Stony Dell Resort, where movie star Mae West visited at least once. It was the first town we saw that showed the sign of deterioration that came from the old Route 66 being abandoned in favor of the highway when it came along. The first, but certainly not the last.
The Missouri landscape reminds me of our travels through Pennsylvania with the rolling mountains and greenery.
After a stop at the World’s Largest Gift Shop and Candy Store, in Phillipsburg, MO, and bought some nostalgic treats, we headed down the road and into Oklahoma where we hit some of what’s called the “Sidewalk Highway” or “Ribbon Road”. Pouring more than 2,400 miles of concrete turned out to be a pretty expensive project, especially back in the 1920's. So, the state of Oklahoma came up with a solution: a road that's half as wide should cost half as much. To save money as they paved parts of Route 66, they poured the concrete just 9 feet wide, creating just one hard-surfaced lane. (Who knew those automobiles were going to catch on and there’d be more than two on the road at the same time!) Incredibly, two sections of this roadway still exist, and are drivable…and drive them we did. What a blast and truly another part of what made the journey so awesome…
Along with ribbon road, OK presented us with cows for as far as they eye could see. We stopped in Claremore for the evening and had a comfortable dinner and some wine and beer for dinner in the hotel room. Very relaxing but a long night followed as we listened to the trains blow their whistles all night long as they rumbled by on the tracks next to the hotel!